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by Daniel Hathaway

CHEN-RayNot quite twenty-five years old, violinist Ray Chen has left his prodigy days well behind and enjoys a burgeoning reputation as a smart, stylish young virtuoso who told this publication that his main concern is to connect with audiences.

Born in Taiwan and brought up in Australia, and having spent a local stint at the Encore School for Strings in Hudson barely a decade ago, Chen is refreshingly devoid of pretense and attitude. And as he showed a good-sized audience at the Cleveland Museum of Art on February 12, he can deliver an impressive and thoroughly engaging recital.

Chen and his pianist partner, Julio Elizalde, playing modishly from iPads, led off with a vigorous and incisive retelling of Mozart’s A-major sonata, K. 305, neatly passing off phrases and finishing each other’s sentences like old buddies. The two-movement piece, written when Mozart was barely twenty, concludes with a set of six variations on a theme in which the two musicians brought out a variety of subtle inflections. Read the rest of this entry »


by Mike Telin

CHEN-RayIt’s always a great pleasure to return to a place and to continue to build a relationship with the audience,” violinist Ray Chen told us during a recent telephone conversation. “That’s what I believe performing is about, it’s the connections to the audience.”

On Wednesday, February 12 beginning at 7:30 pm in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gartner Auditorium, Ray Chen returns to Cleveland as part of CMA’s Performing Arts Series, Masters of the Violin. Pianist Julio Elizalde joins Chen in performances of Mozart’s Sonata in A, K. 305 and Sarasate’s Habanera, Playera, and Zigeunerweisen, as well as Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9, “Kreutzer.”

Born in Taiwan and raised in Australia, Ray Chen studied at the Curtis Institute of Music. Following wins at the Yehudi Menuhin (2008) and Queen Elisabeth (2009) competitions, Chen’s international career has been on a fast track forward. You can read about his accomplishments and numerous other interests on his website.

Chen, who turns 25 the beginning of March, most recently performed in Cleveland last summer, making his debut with the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom. But Cleveland also played an important role during his formative years. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CHEN-RaySometimes everything works together for the good. On Sunday evening, perfect weather, a gifted young soloist, an engaging program and an energized conductor all conspired to create a memorable evening at Blossom. The soloist was violinist Ray Chen, his vehicle was Vivaldi’s popular quartet of concertos, The Seasons (teamed up with Rossini’s irresistible La gazza ladra overture and Mendelssohn’s scenic Scottish symphony), and the podium was commanded by an old Blossom friend, the estimable Jahja Ling. A large crowd assembled on the lawn and the pavilion was two-thirds full.

Though Chen, who is Australian, playfully suggested beforehand that he might start with Winter and play The Seasons in Down Under order, he began with Spring, as is customary, immediately creating synergy with concertmaster Jung-Min Amy Lee and principal second violinist Stephen Rose in a delightful series of bird calls. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

CHEN-RayOn Sunday, August 11 beginning at 7:00 pm the sounds of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons will fill the Blossom Music Center grounds when violinist Ray Chen makes his debut with The Cleveland Orchestra. The concert under the direction of Jahja Ling also features Rossini’s Overture to The Thieving Magpie and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3.

Born in Taiwan and raised in Australia, Ray Chen studied at the Curtis Institute of Music. Following wins at the Yehudi Menuhin (2008) and Queen Elisabeth (2009) competitions, Chen’s international career has been on a fast track forward. You can read about his accomplishments and numerous other interests on his website.

But let’s get directly to our conversation. We reached Ray Chen by telephone in Germany where he had just finished a recording session for his third, all-Mozart album with Christoph Eschenbach and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra. 

Mike Telin: Congratulations on your Cleveland Orchestra debut

Ray Chen: Thanks! I’m really excited. I went to the Encore School for Strings in 2006 and 2007 and I attended some concerts at Blossom. I remember hearing Christian Tetzlaff play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and the second half was Scheherazade. That is a strong memory — sitting on the lawn — because as students we weren’t going to pay for pavilion seats. So I am really excited because there is more of a personal connection when you go back to the places you have been as a student. And to be able to be on the other side is fantastic. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Tiberghien-CedricIt’s always a special occasion when a musician has the opportunity to perform as a soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra, and if it’s your own debut there is even more excitement added to the occasion. This summer three young musicians will be making their Cleveland Orchestra debuts — pianist Cédric Tiberghien (Saint-Saëns’s Concerto #2 in g minor on Saturday, July 27); violinist Ray Chen (Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on Sunday, August 11); and pianist Martin Helmchen (Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #1 in C major on August 24). All three gentleman are lively conversationalists who had plenty to say about being part of the new generation of artists committed to engaging with and attracting new audiences to classical music.

And what does a performance with the Cleveland Orchestra mean to the three? “It’s one of the things that when I look at my calendar it’s a little bit unbelievable,” says Martin Helmchen. For Ray Chen, the opportunity brings on extra excitement: “I remember going to concerts at Blossom and sitting on the lawn when I was a student in 2006 and 2007 at the Encore School for Strings. So this performance has a very personal connection. To have been there as a kid and now to be on the other side, it’s just great!” Cédric Tiberghien calls it “absolutely amazing. It’s an incredible opportunity for me and I’m really looking forward to it.” Today is the first of three features spotlighting the debuting soloists. Read the rest of this entry »

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